Director: Tony Maylam
Screenplay: Gary Scott Thompson
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Kim Cattrall, Alastair Duncan, Michael J. Pollard, Alun Armstrong, Pete Postlethwaite, Ian Dury
Country: UK
Running Time: 90 min
Year: 1991
BBFC Certificate: 18

It’s 2008 and London has been flooded thanks to global warming. This soggy quagmire is now a city infested with rats and crime and in the middle of it all hard-boiled cop, the improbably named Harley Stone (Hauer), hunts a superhuman serial killer. With the help of his equally improbably named partner Dick Durkin (Duncan) and some new found psychic abilities, will Harley find his prey or will he go mad trying.

Split Second is a film that absolutely does not take itself seriously. An early 90s British made Sci-Fi thriller directed by Tony Maylam from a script by Gary Scott Thompson (The Fast and the Furious) it has a visual style and sensibility that very much feels like it’s been ripped straight from the pages of 2000ad. Nicely grimy with a compelling madness to its plot, this is the kind of bonkers, violent action film you don’t really get any more and it also has a surprisingly fun sense of humour to boot.

The narrative starts in media res, with Stone suspended from the force and being pursued by a newly assigned Durkin. From the opening strip club attack with its grotty cyberpunk aesthetic and horror undertones, it’s clear that this will be a very different story. Indeed, there is a strong horror presence here, with the killer’s true purpose and origin left ambiguous, and a satanic undertone prevalent throughout, but the sci-fi is also believable, as is the witty interplay between characters, helped by the clear chemistry between Hauer and Scottish actor Duncan (fresh from a supporting role on Taggart) as well as some healthy ad-libbing (“We’re gonna need bigger guns! Big f*****g guns!”)

Alongside a great cast including some British luminaries such as Alun Armstrong, Pete Postlethwaite and Ian Dury, Hauer absolutely takes centre stage as Stone, a cop with a mysterious gift he never asked for and a dead partner to avenge. Not one inch of scenery goes unchewed. Alastair Duncan manages to hold his own against this Hollywood great as Durkin, starting out as a meek nerd and going to wannabe action hero over the course of the film. Add in Kim Cattrall as Stone’s former squeeze and a cameo from character actor Michael J. Pollard and there are enough familiar faces here to draw in the viewer.

Despite a clearly low-budget, the film looks great with sets built in an abandoned Hartley’s jam factory doubling for the flooded streets of London. There’s also some nice prosthetic gore on display, thanks to Stephen Norrington (Blade, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and a creature design that works particularly well by not being fully revealed until the last 10 minutes of the film.

It may be a bit rough around the edges in places, but blending a heady cocktail of genres with escalating levels of insanity and fun leading to an explosive climax, Split Second is a pulpy gem from the early 90s that will have likely passed most viewers by. This wonderfully restored version from 101 Films is absolutely worth hunting down for genre fans looking for a good night in front of the TV.

Bonus Features

  • Audio Commentary by action film historian Mike Leeder and filmmaker Arne Venema
  • “Great Big Bloody Guns!” Producer Laura Gregory & Actor Alastair (Neil) Duncan on Split Second (HD, 27:25)
  • “Call Me Mr. Snips!” An Interview with Composer Stephen W. Parsons (HD, 22:21)
  • “Stay In Line!” An Interview with Line Producer Laurie Borg (HD, 23:02)
  • “More Blood!” An Interview with Creature Effects Designer Cliff Wallace (HD, 32:03)
  • “Shoot Everything!” An Interview with Cinematographer Clive Tickner (HD, 18:57)
  • Limited edition booklet: Includes ‘Monster Mash: Making Split Second’ by Scott Harrison, and ‘Behind Blue Eyes: Rutger Hauer, Unlikely Action Star’ by Phillip Escott
  • Newly commissioned artwork by Keith Robinson
  • Original 1992 Split Second “Making of” featurette featuring interviews with stars Rutger Hauer, Kim Cattrall, Alastair (Neil) Duncan, Michael J. Pollard, Writer Gary Scott Thompson and more! (SD, 6:12)
  • Original 1992 behind the scenes feature featuring effects creator Stephen Norrington, cast and crew (SD, 3:31)
  • Split Second Japanese Cut, full frame with burnt-in Japanese subtitles (SD, 95:00)
  • Deleted Scenes from the Japanese Cut (English, burnt-in Japanese subtitles) (SD, 4:30)
  • 7 Promotional TV Clips (SD) (SD, 13:33)
  • U.S. VHS Home Video Promo (SD, 2:55)
  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:12)

101 have included plenty of extras in this 2-disc set including lavish new artwork and some fantastic new interviews with the cast and crew. These include some fantastic revelations about the filming and some wonderful recollections of the late Rutger Hauer.

Also included is a full frame Japanese cut with 5 minutes of extra scenes which add to Durkin’s character, introducing his wife. These extra scenes are also provided separately and are largely throwaway and a little risible making this alternative cut hardly essential.

There’s also a booklet included with some newly written essays which we sadly didn’t get a chance to look at.

Split Second - 101 Films
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